[Interview] Kristen Collier, author of ‘Joy the Jellyfish’


kristen-collier.jpgKristen Collier‘s first children’s book, Joy the Jellyfish (Dragonfly Publishing, 2007) is a 24-paged picture book that tells the story of an almost invisible and shy jellyfish called Joy who is on a mission to make new friends.

The picture book was followed by Dreamchaser (Guardian Angel Publishing, 2007), a novel for young adults which Kristen co-authored with her husband, Kevin.

In a recent interview, Kristen Collier spoke about her concerns as a writer.

When did you start writing?

Five years ago, in September, I was at the library waiting to take a test for a job. I’d heard that if you wrote your goals down you were more likely to achieve them, so I took out the only piece of paper in my purse — an envelope — and wrote on the back of it my goals.

The next day the story for my novel King of Glory came to mind. And now, five years later, I finally have a publisher, not for my novel, but for a picture book called Joy the Jellyfish.

What did you do to achieve this end?

I spent a lot of time learning to write, mostly by re-writing and re-writing and by using some good reference books from the library. The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman, is one of the best writing books I’ve ever read. Also, Dare to be a Great Writer: 329 Keys to Powerful Fiction is an excellent book.

And then I just started sending out queries. There were endless rejections but after five years I finally found a publisher for a picture book I’d written with my husband’s help.

How would you describe your writing?

Christian fiction, although a few of my books are just nice stories with uplifting messages.

Most of my books are for kids or teens but my novel is my main book. I write for all ages.

My biggest goal is to get a publisher for King of Glory which is about Jesus. It’s sort of like the “Footprints in the Sand” poem. Jesus walks invisibly with the characters, comforting them, etc. So I wanted to get that story out there to encourage people and remind them that they’re never alone.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My biggest concern is to not let it interfere with my family. For the last five years I’ve tried to make it a career. That hasn’t happened, so I’m scaling back and only writing when it doesn’t interfere with my guys.

My biggest challenge is finding a day job. I moved here in February when Kevin and I got married and am currently working in retail. Michigan is in what’s considered a one state recession, so I’m thankful to even have this job, but I’m looking for a clerical position. I’m also a feature writer for The Chronicle of the Horse, which I enjoy.

How do you deal with these challenges?

Just by continuing with the job search. Most writers dream of writing full-time but I think of it as a hobby. My focus is on my current gig and on finding an office job.

Do you write everyday?

I used to write for hours after Jarod went to bed and I’d worked a full day. I did that for a long time but it wasn’t good for him, my shoulders developed problems and I never got anything published. Now I’m sitting on a handful of manuscripts that are ready to find a publisher, so there’s no need to write more until they go somewhere.

Now that I’m in Michigan and married I’m not making the mistake of running myself into the ground anymore. I figure if the time comes for me to spend large amounts of time writing again, the Lord will provide the time block, because I won’t let it interfere with my family or health anymore.

How many books have you written so far?

I am the co-author of an e-book called Dreamchaser (Guardian Angel Publishing, 2007). Kevin wrote that book with me. I have about seven or so manuscripts laying around waiting to find publishers and my publisher for Joy the Jellyfish wants a sequel.

Most are [books for young adults] YA and picture books. Dreamchaser is about an urban teen, destined to become the next LeBron James, who learns that the greatest life is one that serves others.

How did you find a publisher for Joy the Jellyfish?

My husband landed Dragonfly Publishing for me. I’d queried them about another picture book but Kevin told them about Joy. They’d wanted him to illustrate for them and liked the story so picked it up. They’re wonderful to work with and are very excited about the release of Joy.

Joy the Jellyfish is about a little jellyfish who swims the Great Barrier Reef in search of friends. But because she is nearly invisible and too shy to talk to anyone she fails. When she swims to the cold arctic North, a wise white Beluga whale teaches her that a true friend sees from the inside out. Joy didn’t take long to write. Kevin gave me the idea one night and helped me with some sticky parts. As it’s a picture book, there are only a few lines of text per page. As illustrator, Kevin did most of the work.

In a picture book every word counts. It’s not like a chapter book where the rhythm’s not as important because there are tens of thousands of words. Joy is not poetry but it does have a certain rhythm and meter that I was very careful with.

What sets the book apart from others you have written?

It’s the first book I’ve gotten published! But seriously, what sets it apart is the illustrating, not the writing. Kevin has spent more time on this book than any other book he’s illustrating because he believes deeply in his wife.

The only books I’ve written alone are my novel, King of Glory, and my first picture book, The Day Jarod Met Jesus. And since I started writing with him I’m re-working those books, too.

What will your next book be about?

I’m going to do a sequel to Joy. There will be some online short stories, as well, so I’m not sure which storyline I’m going to pick for the sequel.

I’m also working on a really transparent allegory for prayer, called The Fairy Princess. I like that story. It’s a YA chap book about a fairy princess named Angelina. She is filled with tremendous fear but must go out into the world to rescue her lost brethren. It’s based on what Isaiah told the Lord, “Here am I, send me.” It speaks to the heart of girls young and old who find themselves in a scary world but who are willing to say, “Here am I. Send me…send me.”

Who would you say has influenced you most?

My husband, Kevin. As an author/illustrator of about 60 children’s books, he’s taught me a lot about writing… life… and love.

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